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19 December 2005



Have you been to the Citarella's over on 125th near Amsterdam yet? It really clashes with the neighborhood, but give it a year at the rate the gentrification seems to be going. Some people are even currently shopping there!


I haven't been to that Citarella. How does it compare to the one at 75th and B'way? I've been to the latter but only 2-3 times.


Of course, this is across the street from Settepani, which seems to be doing an all right business despite what people thought at first.


Caviar & Champaqgne Bar on 120th & Lenox? Any wonder Harlemites own Land Rovers but not land? Follow the money. This is what happens with low bar funding sources from the Empowerment Zone to others....are dangling out there.

I've lived in Harlem a long time, know the business community real well and plenty of folks that do quite well financially on NYC standards....however I can't say I've ever head anyone ever complain about not being able to get Fois Gras or Beluga Malossol in Harlem. But in glancing at their catalog/menu...I can now buy 16 oz of Beluga Malossol for $3,200 Emperor's.

Why would I ever got to established merchants of these products like Citarella & Fairway that offer Beluga Malossol for $1,000 less? That would take a whole extra 5 minuts of my time for crissakes!

Is it me or does the very name of the business strike at offensive and arrogant? Note no other "Champagne or Caviar" Bar in NYC brands itself with such a pompous tone.

Even to print in a Catalog the price of Beluga Malossol for $3,200/16 oz and Caviar Server (a fancy spoon) for $245....reflects neophytes at the wheel....and an ignorance of "place" and "product". Savvy merchants in this trade know it's a commodity, state in a subtle manner to "Call for Price". Emperors approach struck with me more like a gaudy "big dick contest". It's as if they're intent on telling me "we sell the most refined expensive stuff in Harlem". Okay, to that I say BFD & SFW.

Fortunately for Emporer's there are insecure people who will feel better about themeselves and special about themselves in overpaying for their products and sitting in their fancy establishment. I won't be one of them. I'll continue to "slum" and buy my Moet White Star Champagne for $28.99/bottle and my Holland Gouda @ $6 per 1/4.lb.

I say the Emperor has no clothes. Sure, Harlem has $1M condos...but I don't believe those that buy "fine foods" at Fairway or Citarella....are entrenched in the Emperor's neighborhood. Gaudy jewellery does not illustrate class or a sense of being a destination for anyone in that area. I give this place 2 years max or when their funding source dries up, they'll soon be out of business. Counter this with Melba's on 114th & 8th Ave....she "gets it" and will be around forever...


This is not some clueless dude landing on Lenox from another planet clutching newspaper Harlem real estate stories – he’s a local businessman and a savvy one with plenty of experience selling this stuff. Retail store walk-in traffic alone is not what Emperor’s is meant to survive and thrive on. By the way, Harlem could use a place that’s got a bit more sparkle – not many places to go for a special occasion, are there?

Emperor's Roe has been an established and fast-growing mail order/internet business before opening this space - to house a boutique, bar and restaurant under the same roof. The owner, David Mills, has lived in Harlem since he was 13 (that would be over 20 years now) and, if you are old enough, you may remember Aunt Amy's - way before Sylvia's opened - that's where he worked as a teenager. He then worked at Caviarteria, starting at 19, stocking, packing and shipping caviar. Turned out he had a good palate and interest in the job so the owner took him on as an apprentice and he became the GM at 23. He came up with the idea of putting a caviar/champagne tasting bar in a retail shop, the first in the country, increasing annual sales from $1.7 million to over $5.6 million in two years - not too shabby, eh? - and later opening Caviarterias is other cities. He has sold caviar to Bloomberg, Wynton Marsalis and a ton of celebrities. He’s a modest guy (and good looking, just check out last month’s Black Enterprise magazine) so he wouldn’t tell you all this but I will since I’ve worked with him.

Lancelot, you mention the “Beluga Malossol for $3,200/16 oz” a few times in your posts, obviously finding it offensive. Why? That is just one type of caviar out of many sold by Emperor’s – and one that was banned by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. It can’t be imported any more and all existing stock must be sold in the next year or so. Won’t be around much longer so the insecure types will have to make do with the cheap stuff. Which you do not mention at all – say, the American sturgeon caviar at $23/1oz - or $290/16oz – less than 10% of the beluga price. (Question: what would you do with a pound of beluga, anyway? Unless you’re throwing a block party – in which case I’d love to come - all you want is a couple of ounces: it doesn’t keep well, you should eat the whole thing once you open the tin. That Caviar Server for $245? It’s not a spoon, which would run you $5-35, but a glass and silverplate dish to display your caviar on ice by a famous French maker for Orient Express – you can have one for $75, too, so stop carping.) You’ll also find the best smoked salmon at $10 for 4oz. It’s from H. Forman & Son, from Scotland (and not easy to find here).

But don’t take my word for it - you can have a taste of ANYTHING in the store – free. That includes all the caviar, salmon, cheese, pates – and is Emperor’s “Baskin Robbins” tasting policy. Try it before you trash it. You may be surprised to find plenty to like at reasonable prices. You can “slum” at Emperor’s too – they sell Gouda for $12 for 1/2lb.

Oh, and the “funding source”? The owner’s savings. His kids help out at Emperor’s, too.

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